Charles Dickens

Travel Back in Time in Thanet

by Emma's Kent Adventures, by Emma-Jane Swaffield Tuesday, October 8 2013

The district of Thanet boasts a large number of exciting destinations and attractions. History lovers will find a large number of enchanting towns and villages to explore in Thanet, many of which have preserved their prominent landmarks and offer a wealth of interesting historical attractions. Here is a selection of some of Thanet’s most captivating and vibrant historical attractions.

Margate

Exploring the traditional Old Town of Margate is an uplifting experience that people of all ages are sure to love. Old Town is home to Margate’s first harbour, which was built in 1320 and offers visitors an insight into local life in the 17th and 18th centuries. The area is also home to the Theatre Royal, the second oldest theatre in the whole of England. Culture vultures will want to make sure that they catch a show in order to appreciate the layout and acoustics in all its glory. Many of the buildings around the harbour are from different eras and have been restored and renovated to their former glory so this is a great place to wander around and explore on a sunny day.

Image courtesy of ©Iain Farrell (Flickr)

Ramsgate

The charming seaside town of Ramsgate is steeped in rich history and can be found high on a cliff overlooking the sea. Taking a trip to the Maritime Museum is the perfect way to gain an insight into Ramsgate’s rich maritime history and can be found in the impressive and eye-catching Clock House (which dates back to the turn of the 19th century) at the Royal Harbour. This harbour has the unique distinction of being the only harbour in the UK awarded the right to call itself a “Royal Harbour”. The title was bestowed upon it by King George IV after he was touched by the hospitality and adoration shown by the people of Ramsgate when he used the harbour in 1821.

Other local attractions that should not be missed by local history buffs include St Augustine’s, a gothic era church designed by August Pugin and completed by his eldest son, Edward, who was also an architect. While you are there, be sure not to miss The Grange (aka St Augustine’s Grange). This is a Grade I listed Victorian Gothic style building that was also designed by August Pugin, the interior was designed before the outside which was in contrast to the Georgian style that preceded it and was designed to be his personal family home. The interior of the house was completed in 1850 and Pugin passed away just 2 years later at the age of only 40.

Visitors will be able to check out a range of vintage gaming machines in the Pinball Parlour, which is situated inside a stunning Georgian period Italianate greenhouse.

Image Courtesy of ©andyj300 (Flickr)

Broadstairs

Situated just a few miles along the coast from Ramsgate, the town of Broadstairs is simply bursting with old world charm.

The town enjoys connections with the popular novelist Charles Dickens as it is said to have been his favourite holiday spot. Visitors who are interested in the life and times of the great writer will want to head straight to the Dickens House Museum. In addition to the hordes of prints and photographs that can be found in this well maintained museum, visitors who wander through the streets of Broadstairs’ old town will find numerous other connections to Charles Dickens.

Wandering along cobbled streets in the pedestrianised section of the town really sets the scene for history lovers, while many of the local cafes and restaurants have been restored to their 19th century appearance and some have even taken on the name of famous Dickens characters. Taking a trip to Bleak House is the perfect way to follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, as this impressive cliff top building is the place where the writer spent his holidays in the 1850s and 1860s.

Visitors can also take one of the local heritage tours, while the Crampton Tower Museum displays a wealth of interesting machines and is a tribute to Victorian era engineering.

Image courtesy of ©Jon Curnow (Flickr)

Birchington-on-Sea

Take a trip to the tiny village of Birchington-on-Sea to admire the colourful stained glass window that commemorates the burial of poet and Pre-Raphaelite hero Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the Parish church there. His grave is also there and is marked with a large Celtic cross for his gravestone which was designed by his old friend Ford Madox Brown.

Visitors will also want to take the time to wander through the picturesque Quex Park, which is home to a number of interesting historical attractions such as Regency Quex House with its 7 acres of elegant, picturesque, Victorian gardens and natural woodland or the Powell-Cotton Museum, which contains a large number of local curios and one of the most fascinating collections of natural history in the UK.

Manston

Why not visit the tiny village of Manston to discover the important role that Thanet played during World War II? A number of legendary aircraft can be viewed in the impressive RAF Manston History Museum and several of the stories of local airmen are retold here in exciting detail.

Minster

The village of Minster has been an important religious site since 670 and visiting the gently crumbling Minster Abbey is the perfect way to get a feel for this. Minster Abbey was one of the earliest monastic foundations, rebuilt in 1027 after the original buildings were destroyed during Viking raids of the 9th and 10th centuries. It is believed to be possibly the oldest inhabited house in the country and is now inhabited by Nuns who give guided tours giving an explanation of the historic background to this ancient site.

Visitors can also find the St Augustine’s Cross nearby which, according to legend, marks the very spot where St Augustine met with King Ethelbert and preached his first sermon to people of England in 597. There is a Latin inscription on the base of the cross which can be translated as:

 

"After many dangers and difficulties by land and sea Augustine landed at last on the shores of Richborough in the Isle of Thanet. On this spot he met King Ethelbert, and preached his first sermon to our own countrymen. Thus he happily planted the Christian faith, which spread with marvellous speed throughout the whole of England. That the memory of these events may be preserved among the English G G L-G Earl Granville, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports has erected this monument, AD 1884"

Image courtesy of ©Shirokazan (Flickr)

Where to Stay?

There are many wonderful places to stay in this beautiful area to tie in with the rich history that this area has to offer such as Bleak House in Broadstairs where Charles Dickens himself used to stay all those years ago, or how about the beautiful Victorian building that is now the Comfort Inn at Ramsgate? Then there is the Georgian Grade II listed Royal Harbour Hotel, a delightfully quirky 19 bedroom townhouse with magnificent views of the harbour and sea. Or why not take a break from all the culture and history by staying in the wonderful holiday lets provided by Beeches Holiday Lets? These wonderful and functional self-catering houses come in a range of sizes and are “homes away from home” with all the comforts you could ever need. There is a wide variety available across the areas of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs.

So as you can see, there are many wonderful places to explore a wealth of rich English History in Kent that is fascinating for the young and old alike. You can walk in the same footsteps as many important figures from our past and visit the places that inspired many historical greats. Why not take the children and give them a history lesson they won’t forget?

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Categories: Charles Dickens | Curious Margate | Education | Entertainment | History | Holiday | kent | Leisure | Manston | Margate

Why now is the right time to bring Dickens home

by The Codgers' Club Friday, February 17 2012

by Peter Cook

This is my latest big idea. Let’s bring back Dickens.

Forget those old campaigns to fetch HMS Victory back to Chatham, where she was built. That plan is dead in the water. Or rather dead in the concrete.

We would need dozens of road drills to dig her out before we could even get a tow line aboard. That might wake up the neighbours.

Dickens is a different matter. And we would be doing the old boy a favour. We’d also be doing Rochester a favour and people could come and pay homage at his tomb for free, instead of having to pay through the nose like you do in Westminster Abbey.

He never wanted to be buried in Westminster Abbey with all those other puffed-up writers.

The original plan was to pop him into Shorne Churchyard. But that might be a bit close to the motorway these days, albeit quite near Cobham Woods, where he loved to walk.

The Dean and Chapter at Rochester Cathedral offered to have him interred there. A grave was even dug for him. Perhaps it’s still there under the flagstones, waiting to collapse under some preaching prelate.

Imagine the astonished looks on the faces of the choir as the Dean or even the Bishop was inexplicably swallowed up, with just a puff of masonry dust to show where he had been.

Being realistic, they have probably put someone else in there now. After all, if you’ve dug a good hole, you don’t want to waste it.

So let’s start a campaign now to have the coffin exhumed and repatriated to the city that he knew and loved – well, it soon will be a city.

Devotees would flock to Rochester from every country where Dickens is read and loved – and that’s just about every country.

At a stroke it would make Rochester High Street a commercial gold mine, offering everything from Dickens soap on a rope, take-aways from the Chuzzlewit Chip Shop, treatments at the Our Mutual Massage Parlour and so on.  Actually, it’s a bit like that now.

So I’m looking for full support for this campaign. The next Dickens Festival should be a protest march with placard-carrying characters from his books chanting Bring Back Boz.

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Categories: Chatham | Charles Dickens

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